The Invitation by Oriah
It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon...
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

By Oriah © Mountain Dreaming,
from the book The Invitation
published by HarperONE, San Francisco,
1999 All rights reserved


The Person

Oriah is first and foremost a story-teller, a lover of words and symbols and the stories that lift our spirits, open our hearts and offer us ways to see patterns and create meaning in our lives. The focus of her life and work has been an on-going inquiry into the Sacred Mystery. Her writing, teaching and personal journey all explore how we can each become the individual we are at the deepest level of being and how we can co-create meaning together in the world. Blending humour, insight and compassion for our human struggles Oriah encourages herself and others to be ruthlessly honest and infinitely kind toward our own strengths and our weaknesses.

Raised in a small community in Northern Ontario, Oriah’s family encouraged her to bring her questions and explorations to the Christian tradition they espoused. At home in the wilderness she was drawn to and at home in the ceremonies and earth-based teachings of the First People’s, eventually teaching and sharing what she learned. Her daily practice includes ceremonial prayer, yoga, meditation and writing. A graduate of Ryerson University’s social work program (Toronto) and a student of Philosophy at the University of Toronto she has facilitated groups, offered classes and counselled individuals for over thirty-five years. The mother of two grown sons, Oriah lives in Toronto, Canada.

Oriah is the author of several best-selling books: The Invitation (now translated into more than fifteen languages), The Dance, and The Call: Discovering Why You Are Here. Her book, What We Ache For: Creativity and the Unfolding of Your Soul, explores the challenges, rewards, and necessity of doing our creative work. Opening the Invitation is a small book that shares Oriah’s story of writing and sharing her much-loved poem, “The Invitation.” All five of Oriah’s books are published by HarperONE, San Francisco. Using story and sharing meditations Oriah’s writing explores how to follow the thread of our deepest heart's longing into a life where we can choose joy without denying the difficulties we each face. Facing the challenges and finding the joy of living who we are is further explored on her Sounds True CD, Your Heart’s Prayer. Oriah has shared her insights and stories with audiences throughout the world at conferences and retreats and through radio and TV appearances (CBC, TVO, Oprah, NPR, PBS, Wisdom Network.)

Oriah is currently focused on writing. She is working on a novel, another non-fiction book- a collection of stories about deepening our inner lives- and writing a weekly blog, “The Green Bough” at oriahsinvitation.blogspot.com

Oriah offers counselling and spiritual guidance sessons for individuals in person or by telephone. For details email Oriah at mail@oriah.org

The Name

Oriah has a long and unusual history with her name. In 1984, at thirty years of age, after the onset of severe Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, she had a dream where several elderly women- those she calls Grandmothers in the dream- told her to change her given name to Oriah as part of the process of healing. Nervous about doing something others might see as strange, but desperate to be well, she took the name Oriah and has been called this (by everyone but her mother) since that time. Twenty years later, while doing a book tour, on three successive nights, in three different cities, she was told by people at the bookstores she was visiting that Oriah means light of God in Hebrew, and that it is an ancient Jewish custom to change a patient’s name when doing a healing, to invite new and healing energies.

A year after taking the name Oriah, still seeking healing, she went to a shamanic teacher who gave her the medicine name "Mountain Dreamer.” The shaman told her that a medicine name tells someone what gifts they have to offer the world in their lifetime and that Mountain Dreamer meant "one who likes to find and push the edge."

Because she first shared the prose-poem "The Invitation" (in 1994) with those who had come to participate in ceremony with her, the poem and her subsequent books first appeared under the name Oriah Mountain Dreamer. This led to all kinds of interesting misunderstandings (Eg.-people assumed she was an elderly or deceased Native American man.) Interviewers often begin conversations with, "Now that's not a real name, is it?" Oriah, while deeply honouring the spiritual tradition from which she has received her name, understands that in our modern culture such a name is bound to prompt reactions. She even admits to sometimes sharing the prejudice of thinking that people using names like Mountain Dreamer might be a little flaky! So, she good naturedly explains, when asked, that Oriah Mountain Dreamer is indeed a "real" name, although not her birth name, and reflects on the fact that in our culture what is considered “most real” is that which indicates familial association (inheritance rights, marital status and/or patrilineage) while some other cultures would consider a spiritual name more “real.”

In the spring of 2006 Oriah and HarperONE decided to release the paperback editions of some of the books simply under the name Oriah in the hopes that this would make her insights, stories and meditations available to a wider audience. In her daily life Oriah uses her family name, House, although she finds that leaving phone messages from Oriah House has led some to think the call must be from a group home or social institution. And so the process of naming and explaining continues.

There are lovers content with longing.

I’m not one of them.


Author photo by Sophie Hogan, Elora, Ontario 2009
All other photos gratefully received from Oriah’s ex-husband, Jeff.
  • "A remarkable book. . . . A fierce and tender presence, The Invitation’s wisdom could become a lifelong companion, engaging and awakening the original and unique rhythm of your mind and soul."John O’Donohue, author of Anam Cara

  • "The Call. . . . is a gift to us from a wise, funny, and honest teacher who knows the territory of the human heart and soul like few others." Joan Borysenko, co-author of Your Soul’s Compass

  • "To read The Dance is to invite all of the far flung part of yourself. . . . back onto the dance floor for a slow, sweet waltz. At the end of the dance, you have whirled yourself back into one whole person." Elizabeth Lesser, author of Broken Open

  • A spiritual exploration and practical guide to unleashing your creativity.

The story of how Oriah's poem travelled the world and, unbeknownst to her, touched people's lives.

Oriah On CD

Oriah’s Newsletter

Oriah sends a newsletter by email three or four times a year. If you would like to receive the newsletter please send your email address to mail@oriah.org